Did the Wild West era have any famous deaf people?

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Chris Graefser
St. Peters, Missouri

One who comes to mind is Erastus “Deaf” Smith, one of the most celebrated patriots in the Texas fight for independence. This soldier who became the eyes and ears of the Texas Army was going blind and nearly deaf.

His greatest contribution in the war was as a scout and spy, talents that influenced the Battle of Concepción on October 28, 1835, the Grass Fight on November 26, 1835, and, most important, the Battle of San Jacinto.

Just before the Battle of San Jacinto that sealed Texas independence, Gen. Sam Houston sent Smith and a group of hand-picked soldiers to remove and burn Vince’s Bridge, thereby cutting off Mexican reinforcements and blocking any chance for Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna to escape. The Texans knew this also kept them from retreating. The message was clear: “Victory or death.” That victory came on April 21, 1836.

Smith organized a Texas Ranger company after the war, and he died on November 30, 1837. Deaf Smith County is named in his honor.

Oh, and folks pronounced his name “deaf” with a long e, not a short e.

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